Crystallography is an interdisciplinary science related to physics, chemistry, geology, biology, medicine, computer sciences, amongst others. It thereby participates in advancing scientific research to generate trades, business and therefore greatly contribute to the sustainable development of nations. However, in developing countries and particularly in most sub-Sahara African countries, due to the lack of adequate equipments, research in the field and the use of crystallography doesn’t have the same impact as elsewhere over the world.
In order to address this issue, IUCr designed for African countries an ambitious program known as "IUCr African Initiative" ( http://www.iucr.org/iucr/sponsorship/crystallography-in-africa). As a matter of fact, one of the three meetings organized during the international year of crystallography was held in South Africa in October 2014.
The African initiative program is not only reserved to the training of teaching staff and PhD students in crystallography; it also provides with the help of companies like BRUKER, participating universities with diffractometers. The first institution where teaching staff has been trained in order to receive a powder diffractometer is the University of Dschang in Cameroon where a Bruker D5005 diffractometer was installed in 2013. Also, in 2013, the Cameroon Crystallography Association (CCrA) was founded. In August 2014 in Montreal (Canada), Cameroon was admitted as first sub-Sahara African IUCr member during the 23rd General Assembly of IUCr. A single crystal diffractometer will be installed soon and all these equipments will be also benefic to others countries in the region. In the same direction, in February 2016, the Houphouet Boigny University (Côte d’Ivoire) will be equipped with one powder diffractometer and one single crystal diffractometer. To date, several workshops and open laboratories have been organized in other countries: Algeria, Tunisia, Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya, Morocco, Democratic Republic of Congo, Senegal and South Africa. Soon, Benin, Burkinafaso, Congo, Gabon, Madagascar and Nigeria will also host similar events.
Otherwise, during the summit meeting of the international year of crystallography held in Bloemfontein (South Africa) in 2014, the major activity focused on how to use crystallography as potential vehicle to expand science in Africa.
IUCr, ICSU, UNESCO and some African countries participating to this summit meeting decided to write with ECA a final declaration signed by all delegates (document available at http://www.iycr2014.org/summits) which aims were as follows:
- Bring African scientists to the INDABA series of conferences in South Africa, to expose them to high level International interdisciplinary science;
- Organize a Workshop in Central Africa to offer local scientists the opportunity to interact, liaise, and strengthen basic knowledge of crystallography.
The expected result was the significant expansion of crystallography in Africa, and ultimately, the establishment of an African Crystallographic Association (AfCA).
Thus, the variety of activities of this first Panafrican Conference on Crystallography which will be held in Dschang (Cameroon) will provide opportunities to engage with (i) the scientific community, from expert crystallographers to young researchers and students of all ages around the world, (ii) government representatives and policy-makers from most African countries.